Monday, 28 June 2010

Tam' Slam...

....Well, not quite a slam. But we did get slammed by the heat. As Scott so eloquently put it "I feel like a bug in a jar right now..." Yep, it was the weekend and time for more dirt riding. I met up with Aaron and Scott in Mill Valley, mid Sunday morning. Our plan was to replicate a ride we'd done a few weeks before and climb Mount Tamalpais. Its been a while since I've ridden with these lads. Aaron took a school trip tumble a while ago and popped his shoulder so has only just started riding again.

We ended up taking a different route to last time. The heat was killer so we needed to find fun without so much of the climb. The vertical itself isn't so brutal, but when you're breathing from an open oven door it tends to deplete the energy and spirit. En route we passed one poor soul "calling to dinosaurs" - (copyright A.Aubrey 2010.) Still, we hit the very top of Mount Tam and headed on our giddy way back down to the railroad grade trail.

don't recall what trails we took. But I do recall the speed we took them at! Scott is like a genie on the trails - all you see is a puff of smoke (or at least trail dust) and he's gone! The trail started out full of baby head rocks - made me appreciate the plushness of 6inch travel - and eventually evened out to steep rutted fireroad. Great fun. Made more so by my recent addition to the MTB arsenal - eyesight! Yep, I wore my contacts for the first time and it made a big difference. No longer was I focused 3 feet in front of the front tire. Now I could confidently look down the trail and let the bike and body instinct do it's thing.

We finished our ride with a spirited run back to Mill Valley and then onto the Marin Brewco for burgers and beers. Perfect. I'm already looking forward to the next Lemurian Brother's reunion ride!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Over the Bridge

Its the countdown to Downieville, so in anticipation me and Spangles decided to get some mileage and footage under our wheels this weekend. Downieville starts with a brutal climb. I'd been googletubing videos in the week and simply watching was enough to make my legs tremble. Fun shredding would have to wait. We needed to feel some pain!

With this in mind we decided we should hit the Marin headland trails. I'd heard good things about this area and, on paper, it looked like a good, long ride with some nice steep climbing. Its also very close to home so we could roadie style it from my place. After a quick fuel up at the Chestnut Bakery (great coffee) we were ready. Riding over the GG Bridge is made a little more technical by dodging all the tourists and road bikers. But its a good way to warm up. By the time we hit dirt we'd already covered 8 miles.

We took the coastal road down to Bunker road and hit the Rodeo trail before bearing right onto the Bobcat trail. The first of several long climbs taking us back up to 1000ft or so above sea level. From there we rode to the Tennessee Valley Trailhead and picked up the Coastal Trail. The flavour of the day was to be climb, descend, climb, descend - and repeat. This was perfect.

The Coastal Trail is closed to bikes on certain sections which is a shame - but understandable given the number of pensioners and toddlers en route. That kinda technical I don't want to deal with. So we took the coastal fireroad to bypass (and add some more climbing) and then re-connected near Muir Beach. This short section of the Coastal Trail gave a cruel taste of how fun it COULD be.... lots of ruts and whoop de doo's .... but lots of families and rogue dogs. So we had to exercise restraint. Maybe a mid-week or early morning session is in order to really take advantage of this place...

Once we hit the trail to Muir Beach, we peeled off to the Green Gulch trail. Through the Zen centre and then onto a nice, steep technical climb. This one caused my all too familiar cramping and burnout to kick in. But a couple of minutes rest and some Sharkies later I was good to go. Before it gets really brutal, the terrain levels out and the heart rate goes back to normal. Once we cleared Green Gulch, we stopped to sort some mechanical issues and scoff scooby snacks before the climb up Coyote and on to the Miwok trail. Now, Miwok is fuuuun! Deep ruts, lots of jumps and - thankfully - few hikers. It even throws a few tight switchbacks at you to keep things interesting. My technique was a little less than fluid on a few of the jumps and I hit a few smack on the front side. But it was no bother to the Nomad's stride. 6 inches of travel will do a lot to smooth out shabby trail riding. Speaking of which, with all the climbing we were doing I really noticed how great the pro-pedal is. Its only once you unhinge the Nomad's plush suspension do you realise just how firmed up the arse end is by the pro-pedal. Impressive stuff. But I digress.

So, we'd had our fun. Back to the meat of this ride ; climbing. Our descent had taken us to the Tennessee Valley trail head. Now we needed to head back up to the Bobcat trail. A quick before and after Garmin check verified my guestimate - we had a good 1000ft of straight climbing ahead. No worries. By now, we were 25 odd miles in and feeling pretty good. I'd been playing with a new pedaling technique all day which seemed to be reaping rewards. I normally just huff and puff and stab my feet south to get through the climbs. But the Nomad is an unforgiving beast when it comes to climbing. She's no slouch, but she aint no mountain goat either. So better technique was called for. I focused on using my upper legs to "kick and scrape" through the pedal cycle. It feels a little strange, but works a treat. Every time I nailed it, my cadence got faster, smoother and less strenuous. But its not quite hardwired yet. I need to work on making it my default stroke - especially when the going gets tough and steep.

Anyway, all these thoughts of technique and analysis are going through my head as I spin the granny gear up the climb. Like all the ascents that day, the grade wasn't steep enough to warrant resting - "no one got stronger from stopping" I kept chanting to myself. But it was long enough and intense enough to lay down some solid foundations for Downieville and beyond - I hope.

We hit Bobcat and rode back to Rodeo and onto Bunker road for the climb out, back to the bridge. Just in time too as my camel sack was run dry and we'd finished the last of the scooby snacks. Riding past the tourists gathered at the look outs, I took stock of all the epic views we'd seen that day - A fringe benefit of enjoying our sport and something I'd otherwise miss out on. Another good reason to get out and ride :o)

After five and half hours, 36 miles and 5500ft of climbing, we arrived back in the city. Confident we'd reap the rewards of our graft later. But also aware that we'll need to get a couple more sessions like that under out belts to make Downieville as pain free and fun as possible.

Monday, 14 June 2010


No "real" riding this weekend. Just a treck around San Fran on my trusty Orange hardtail. The P7 really is the perfect city bike. Yeah, its a bit heavy but it climbs the hills of this place no problem. And those lovely big, flat DMR V10's are a great platform for urban riding. I finished up riding on the trails near the Golden gate Bridge. Gentle single track, but great views. I did briefly consider kitting the P7 out with some panniers or a rack to add some practicality to these city jaunts. But then I remembered the countless trail miles I'd ridden on this bike, including a few races, and decided she wasn't ready to be put out to pasture just yet. ;o)

Monday, 7 June 2010

6610 : Tamarancho Dirt Classic

The weekend of the 6th June saw me, Spangles and Rosson head to familiar territory for the Tamarancho Dirt Classic race. Car mechanicals and sunburn conspired to halt me and Spangles in our pursuit of dirt but thanks to Rosson giving us the keys to his truck, and aloe vera, the day was on! Now, I've said this (to myself) time and time again ; always, always carry a spare pair of gloves in your camelsack. Always. That was a lesson well learned at Napa. Not going to make the same mistake again. Nope, this time I won't bring ANY gloves with me instead. What a fool. I left all FOUR PAIRS of my gloves in the truck. Something I realised 20 minutes before the start and after 2 miles of climbing from the carpark....... My lizard skins were already dripping with sweat. This was not a good start. Luckily, lady MTB luck decided to step in, or at least Jason's mate did, and handed me a pair of fingerless gloves for the duration. Sorted.

After limbering up in the gorgeous sunshine and chatting to a few locals (including a fellow Sheffielder who, at 49, didn't look a day over his mid 30's - a great advert for riding and Cali' weather) we were all set! The race was to take in most of the regular Tamarancho loop with a few additions. The direction of travel was oppposite to what I'm used to riding which threw up a few pleasant suprises. The tough, tight switchbacks normally tackled on the climb are great fun on the way down. And the infamous Rock is far more manageable when riding down it's imposing face. It shone new light on an old friend, but I still had enough local knowledge to know when to keep my kung fu wits about me.

The main difference between the race and the regular Tamarancho loop was the inclusion of the Dead Heffer climb. I'm not entirely sure were it got it's name. But, it feels strangely appropriate. Your, once nimble feeling, bike soon feels like a hellish dead cow when you're at the pushing stage which - for me, was not long into the race. I did have a decent ride though. Really had my wits about me and enjoyed the flow of Tamarancho's perfectly groomed single track. The switchbacks were especially satisfying... keep off the front brake, let the bike track through, use momentum, point the bike and it'll go, use the back brake to skid out the rear a little - nice!

But the climbing killed me. Especially as we had to do the Dead Heffer climb 3 times. Three!?!?! There's a special place in hell for the person who thought that would be a fun addition to the race. The first climb was a "warm up!" After that we proceeded, heads bowed and panting, to push our steeds up it's unforgiving fireroad. Well no amount of sugary goodness in my camelsack could save my legs from fading fast. And then the cramps kicked in...... So any chance of a decent time was screwed. But this didn't stop me enjoying the course and the general atmosphere. There really is no better way to spend a sunny Sunday than riding hard in the company of fellow MTB enthusiasts. Although the day wasn't without its casualties. Navigating tight switchbacks and baby head rocks with the flutter of a rescue helicopter's blades in your ear is a visceral reminder of the dangers of this sport.

Still, we finished the race, a little more sunkissed, tired and happy. Spangles did a great job. The times haven't been posted as I write this, but he finished a good half hour ahead of me. A cracking job for his first race. We're doing Downieville next month. I think we (ok, I) need to get some conditioning in to cope with the climbing. Maybe a Mt Diablo ride is on the cards....

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

May's End 2010

During the memorial day weekend me and Spangles took a trip to Mikes Bikes in San Rafael for a snoop around. Whilst there, idly perusing the magazines and energy beans I spotted a poster for the Tamarancho Dirt Classic MTB race. In my head, I thought the race was at least a few weeks away..... but on closer inspection (ie, reading the details properly) I realised it takes place during the first weekend of June. Ie, next weekend. So, instead of spending this particularly leisurely long weekend taking pictures like this :

I decided I really ought to be out on the trails getting some mileage in. So me and Spangles decided to tool up and head to China Camp for some much needed shredding. China Camp gets several mentions on this blog. And with good reason. Its such a great place to ride. Swooping, fast trails and some fun stuff to session when you feel like it -ie, the Nike drops at the top of the dyno' climb*

I had hoped to get a cheeky Tamarancho session in before the weekend was out, but a creaky hub put paid to that idea. The Nomad is currently in the shop having this seen to. They're also dialing in my suspension for me. I wonder if they can dial in these (still) bruised ribs while they're at it.

* Dyno climb ..... strangely pleasant.